Join Up Dots Business Coaching Podcast

Introducing Steve Kahan

Steven Mark Kahan is our guest today on the Steve Jobs inspired Join Up Dots business podcast. Steve is a serial entrepreneur that has had great success moving from the corporate world early in his career to the startup world. He has successfully helped to grow six start-up companies from early-stage development to going public or being sold, resulting in more than $3 billion in shareholder value. He is currently CMO at Thycotic, which will become the seventh. Steve inspires teams and their organisations to take on the impossible and succeed. How The Dots Joined Up For Steve He has just written a book published by Wiley and Audible and available on Amazon.com called “Be a Startup Superstar." The book teaches those graduating college and young professionals how to earn a great living doing what they love by igniting their career at a tech startup. He will share lessons learned in over 30 years for how young professionals or those that feel stuck in the corporate world can earn a great living doing what they love by igniting their career in a technology startup. So is it harder than ever before to launch a successful startup due to the current conditions that we find ourselves in? And looking back at his ups and downs, were there things that he could have avoided or was this all part of the success? Well let's find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots with the one and only Steve Kahan Show Highlights During the show we discussed such deep subjects with Steve Kahan such as: We discuss why people have to realise that even through the dark times in life, we see opportunities burst forth at the same rate as before Steve opens up about being a startup superstar, compared to what it takes to be merely successful. Why a startup operates like its the last outpost for outlaws, inspiring the mavericks and creatives of the world. And lastly........... Steve talks about why energy and protecting your time is so vitally important - basically be your own top priority in everything you do. Steve Kahan Books How To Connect With Steve Kahan Website Linkedin Facebook Instagram Return To The Top Of Steve Kahan If you enjoyed this episode of Steve Kahan why not listen to some of our favourite podcast episodes such as Spike Ball Founder, Nick Ruiz,  Sarah Caltieri or the amazing Mandy Barbee Or if you prefer just pop over to our podcast archive for thousands of amazing episodes to choose from. Full Transcription Of Steve Kahan Interview Intro 0:00 When we're young, we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling. Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here's your host live from the back of his garden in the UK, David Ralph. David Ralph 0:25 Yes, good morning, welcome to Join Up. Dots. Thank you so much for being here. Wherever you are across the world. Some of you have been with us for over seven years now. Thank you so much for being here. Others have just joined in, but you've come at a good time you've come a good time because the things that are coming through Join Up Dots, a life changing for you. Well, today's guests on the show is a serial entrepreneur, but has had great success moving from the corporate world early in his career to the startup world. He has successfully helped to grow six startup companies from early stage development. going public or being sold, resulting in more than 3 billion in shareholder value. He is currently cmo at five Kotick which will become the seventh. Now he inspires teams and their organisations to take on the impossible and succeed. And he has just written a book published by wily and audible and available on Amazon called be a startup superstar. This book teaches those graduating college and young professionals how to earn a great living doing what they love by igniting their career at a tech startup, he will share lessons learned in over 30 years for how young professionals are those that feel stuck in the corporate world can earn a great living doing what they love by igniting their career in a technology startup. So is it harder than ever before to launch a successful startup due to the current conditions that we find ourselves in? And looking back at his ups and downs? Were there things that could have been avoided? Or was this all part of the success? Well, let's find out as we bring them to the show to start joining up dance with the one and only Mr. Steve Kahan. Steve Kahan 2:08 Hi. I'm doing great. David, how are you? David Ralph 2:11 I'm very well, thank you very much for being here on the show. I understand that you've got up at half past four in the morning, you're in Texas. What's happening outside your window? Is the weld getting going? Or is it still in lockdown? Steve Kahan 2:23 It is in partial lockdown, unfortunately. David Ralph 2:27 And what is the unfortunate part? Lots of people in the entrepreneurial world almost say it hasn't really made a difference to us. Steve Kahan 2:35 Well, it hasn't made a difference to a number of companies like ours or for me who's used to working remotely but there are a lot of people and businesses, particularly small businesses that are struggling. And you know, for that reason, when that occurs, and certainly there's impacts on people and on businesses as well. Well, that's, that is an impact that is negative and something that I wish that we all could could avoid. David Ralph 3:08 Now, of course, most people now are at least thinking to themselves, maybe maybe I should take some kind of control of my future with unemployment and redundancies soaring. Do you think that's a naive point of view? Or do you think that people really have got the opportunities nowadays to take control and start earning their own income? Steve Kahan 3:30 I think that you absolutely can take control and start earning your own income. And, and really, to me, I think there's never been a better time and in many respects, I mean, certainly I think I really think Winston Churchill said it perfectly. He said, a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty and so, you know, are you going to focus On the upside or the downside, do you see the cup is half full or half empty? And I really think that that positive optimistic people are certainly the ones that I choose to surround myself with. And my and I certainly believe that there are still many, many great opportunities, particularly to start a business or to join an existing startup and and take on some bigger, perhaps better funded companies and work with a small team of crazies that are hell bent on changing the world. I David Ralph 4:37 always remember I had a guest on the show and unfortunately, I can't remember the guest but I remember what he said. And he said, no matter how bad the world seems financially, somebody is getting the money. He said, it's just like an ocean where the tide has left your side and it's going to the other side, and it's your job as an entrepreneur to roll that boat across the Ocean to where that money is flooding in. And it is true, isn't it? Even at the worst times we're seeing zoom go through the roof, we're seeing bicycle sales go up massively. We're seeing so many people finding it boom time. Steve Kahan 5:15 I think that's true. And I think the key is is to find the sector sectors, as you mentioned that that are really going and going well for you mentioned some of them, I happen to work within the cybersecurity world and, and the hackers are out there almost like never before and so many businesses are looking to to do a better job of reducing risk. And so, you know, without question, there is many opportunities. There are people that are changing the way that they're working, working remotely, and that creates significant opportunity. So I absolutely agree with that. And, and and I am beginning to see people begin to capitalise on on some of those and, and think about ways to, to change the world. To me a great example of that is there is a new startup company that actually I'm considering investing and that is trying to change the way college students interact with businesses, where typically was face to face via career fairs, and then changing that interaction building more engagement and then facilitating the hiring process. I think, to me, that's a great example of a couple of young entrepreneurs that see an amazing opportunity and, and very well may change the way the world operates in terms of the college career experience. David Ralph 6:55 So let's turn the conversation to be our top superstar. Hold tight title, what actually is a difference that makes you a superstar and not just successful or getting by Steve Kahan 7:10 I think it starts first and foremost with choosing the right organisation or building the right startup organisation. And many people sort of don't understand the criteria of how to put yourself within a startup organisation that has a great chance to be successful. And there are, for example, certain criteria that I look at when I have joined startup companies and now I'm, I've been with six all of whom successfully sold or have gone public, generating over $3 billion. And now I'm with my seven that's like a rocket ship. And so to me, it's making the right choices and it starts with that. I look for Things like quality people who share the same values that I do. So if you don't trust, respect and admire the people that you're working with move on. I look for a concept that fills a big market need. I do the research and the homework to make sure that the market is big enough. I certainly understand that. People particularly now more than ever don't spend money on nice to solve problems they spend money on must solve. And I don't get dissuaded if there's too much competition, I I get dissuaded if there's not enough, I look for things like that. There's a great product that you can believe in where you can go to work every day with a passion for what the company creates and your role in creating it. And if you can't get behind it with enthusiasm, move on. And then finally, that the startup is well funded, and so that you are making sure that you're properly capitalised, so you have the best chance for growth and stability. And I think if you use those criteria to select a startup company, you have positioned yourself to have that opportunity to have a great outcome and be the superstar that you were meant to be. David Ralph 9:17 Now one of the things you say you look for a startup and you can't go on Craigslist and find these. So how do you find a startup for somebody out there who's interested? How do they actually find something before it's even started? Steve Kahan 9:31 So typically, what I will do is, is I I have started one company. And then the other companies that I have been with I have joined very small companies. And there are two ways that people oftentimes overlooked to find great companies. So one of which in most cities throughout the globe, there's what's known as startup accelerators or seed access. Raiders. And again, they exist in every city. You could do a Google and the city that you live in, and you'll find them and they are funding companies. They're providing educational assistance, networking opportunities and the like. And those organisations, posts, the companies that are members are ones that they're funding. And oftentimes there are great jobs right from those sites, right, and they're not the type of jobs that you're going to find posted. Secondly, is I will oftentimes, Reese research and be looking for startup leaders online or what I might read, I might start to follow them and I will make connections with them oftentimes through LinkedIn messenger in a heartfelt sincere way, not a salesy way. And what I've learned is that that type of direct connection First of all, All get you right to the executive. If there's HR at all it bypasses that. And then you can start to talk about how that person is achieving what they are within their career, you can learn from them, and bridge the conversation over to you. And oftentimes, again, if it's approached in the right way, you start to make connections with that person, and there may be opportunities within their company or within their wider network. And so approaching people directly online is something that sounds fairly basic, but you'd be surprised how rare it is actually done. David Ralph 11:45 Now, I know a lot of our listeners would say, it's alright for us, Steve, you've got a track record. You've got something to offer, but I'm starting out what value can I provide these people if I do connect with them directly? Steve Kahan 11:59 Yeah, I think that, you know, that's that's always the question. But the I think the the real thing to focus in on is there are over 80,000 startups around the globe. And, and there was a recent survey of startup CEOs that asked them the number one issue keeping them up at night. And it was actually finding good people. Now think of that for a second. So finding good, talented people was rated ahead of growing revenue, acquiring customers or gaining access to more capital. And so startup executives are desperate for hiring a plus talent. And so, you know, no one has all the experience perhaps that they think that they ought to have when joining an organisation and so oftentimes You know, sort of starts out with that connection. But then also, once you're bridging that conversation to you, if you're able to show some core traits, like for example, a willingness to work hard, someone who's super accountable, an individual who is team oriented, not an eye person, but a weak person, and you start to build, for example, that connection of the type of person that you are some of the background that you have, you'd be surprised how that connection could help bridge you into an organisation and then it really, it comes down to being a sponge, and taking on your own education and learning and building deep expertise. Because that's what the world pays the most for is deep expertise in one particular area. And then from there, building out your your your knowledge base. Since so oftentimes I find within startup companies rather than being in a smaller pigeonhole role, you get the opportunity to actually build that deep expertise. Because if you don't do the work, there aren't a bunch of other resources or people who can. And so it's oftentimes the perfect environment to achieve just that. David Ralph 14:22 Now, in your book, in chapter five, there's a whole chapter is at like a leader, even if you don't have the title yet. And you list great things to fall through and follow through on and one of them is keep your goals in sight. And the baby steps Tell us about that. Steve Kahan 14:43 Well, for me, I think it's super important to first of all, have your goals written down, right and so a lot of people when they talk about their goals, they they they don't have Have them in front of them. And I like to think of goals in terms of quarterly, in in terms of monthly, weekly and even daily, right. So it's that level of sort of detail that I will get into. And a lot of times, when you're thinking about those particular objectives, you also have to realise that not everything can be a high priority. And so, oftentimes, when you are documenting those goals, you'll find that high performers certainly as I saw myself to be, often take on massive workloads, right and to some extent, hard working people, it's they have traits that I respect, but it could create significant stress and burnout lead to burnout over the long haul. So you can't be a high performer without being overwhelmed. And so oftentimes, if you break down those objectives and two, kind of baby steps to get started. If you do a good job of prioritising your goals, what you'll find is is that success isn't about how much you do. It's about performing the right actions towards the right goals that will create the biggest impact. And for me, breaking things down into baby steps, oftentimes enable me to get started to not feel that the mountain is too big to climb. And then once I get started, then it's sort of like a snowball going downhill picking up steam. David Ralph 16:42 Let's listen to Jim Carrey. And then we'll be back with Steve. Jim Carrey 16:45 My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn't believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had Do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don't want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. David Ralph 17:11 So when you were back in corporate land, and you decided to go your own way, did you know what you loved? Or was it just a feeling inside? Steve Kahan 17:20 It absolutely was a feeling inside I had a view of of what I love. But I remember that going from college into the corporate world. I remember staring at my bank statement and the pile of claims that I was supposed to process that day. And wondering, how on earth will I ever get ahead and I was working long days, and for me, the student loans would eat my paycheck before they ever even got a chance to hit my bank account. And so I sort of felt pigeon holed I felt like I In a big bureaucracy where there was great acceptance of the status quo, it was burdened by incumbent mindsets. The barriers to advancement seemed high. And it was like working at a on a giant ship that was hard to manoeuvre slow to change course. And, and for me, I just asked myself an important question. And that was, how could I earn a great living and love the work? I do? And it was really with that question that I realised that moving into more of a startup type of organisation would be the right career move for me. David Ralph 18:43 Now, what are people around you that said, Steve, what you're doing Steve, you've only got a beer for another four years and you've got the corner office. Steve Kahan 18:51 Absolutely. And, and so and then and then they went a step farther. The step farther was look, you know, this is risky if you make a move, it's certainly got great risk and, and there's not going to be the training and career paths that you typically would would see. And so what I learned was really what a startup was right. And so when people think of startups, you know, they they, they have sort of pictures in their mind's eye. But the way that I think of a startup there is a mentor of mine is serial entrepreneur. He's chairman of venture capital company by the name of Doug Irwin. And he says a startup is a company that operates like it's the last frontier for outlaws, a place where non conformists can live, create and sell their ideas. And to me how cool I mean, who doesn't want to be involved in that? It's sort of a place where you get to be the rough riding rebel, running circles around those slower moving bureaucratic, larger organisations. So what I came to learn was really that a startup is a culture. It's a mindset. It's not necessarily defined by the number of people. It's again, that small team of crazies just believing it could change the course of the world. That to me was exciting. David Ralph 20:20 Now, I was always told that I was a maverick in corporate world, like it was a bad thing. And I look back on it now, and I think it was a bloody great thing, and it's allowed me to go off and do what I need to do. Now the Mavericks, the creative thinkers, the strategy Guys, can you get the wrong blend in a startup when you walk into a startup? Can you see quiet, obviously, but they haven't got the right outlaws in place. Steve Kahan 20:49 Absolutely. Right. And so there are many attributes where you could see that they don't have the right outlaws in place. So Typically at startups, if you walk into a startup and you are seeing, like, for example, I'll focus of the values of the company in the cafeteria on a poster on the wall. That's not who startups are, they are living the values associated with with being a startup. You know, what you are often if you walk into a startup and you see that there that it looks like it's a pretty political bureaucratic type of environment where there isn't necessarily and the focus on the the end goal or the focus on on the customer and on beating what will most assuredly be tough competitors, then it's not the right place. If you see that the focus is more on competing internally with with one another and not on the whoever that particular enemy is externally, then it's not the right place. Right. And so typically at startups, it's, it's the opposite of that. And that and that's part of the work environment that I like, where there's great work, even versatility in the role that people are willing to stand up, you know, be accountable, you'll, you'll find that, that people have great persistence and tenacity, they're not going to be sort of overwhelmed by the obstacles that get in their way because they're most assuredly will be there. And then you know, finally that you see a culture where that people are embracing accountability, they want to be accountable to get the job done. And so those are like some of the things not to look for, as well as blending with a few of the things that I actually Look for within a startup that might be indicative that it could have a chance to win. David Ralph 23:06 And when does it become boring to you and you back out Steve Kahan 23:09 for me it I wouldn't say that it's so much boring but I like I do like some aspect of, of change and growth, I think that if if there is in time that it becomes boring, it's a time where you feel that the organisation or or me personally is not growing the way that it used to. Right And so, you know, if it's, if you if you are in a particular role and you're not able to, you know, grow within that role or expand and maybe take on some other roles within the organisation, if that's something that you that you aspire to do, or to move up, move into the C suite, hopefully someday, that to me, that's when it becomes a little bit less exciting. But, you know, again, if you believe the definition, at least that I mentioned that Doug Irwin had were a startup is really a culture, it's a mentality. I don't think that is necessarily, for example, the company I'm with now we've gone from 5 million to 100 million a cybersecurity company called Kotick. We've done that in four and a half years. And so it is not boring at all, even in the great growth that we have had and continue to have. Because there's such an opportunity for all of us and an opportunity for all of us to expand our skill sets. David Ralph 24:37 Now, as she was talking, I was googling on the entrepreneur handbook. And I can see that in the United Kingdom, there's 181, business accelerators, and that's just listed on that one website. So you really have shown but you literally step out your door and you trip over them if you're willing to look Steve Kahan 24:58 absolutely right. And so like, you know, if you go back at that criteria that I mentioned of how to select a startup, let me share with some of your listeners some of the questions that they ought to ask that will help them to figure out whether they're choosing the right one if they called one of those companies, and actually tried to break in. So if I were interviewing, these are some of the questions I would ask. I would ask questions like, why is now the time for your company to exist? Or a question like, what do you love about your team? And why are you the ones to solve this problem? Or tell me about a paying customer? What was their journey to you? And what are the revenue expectations over the next year? Or how much as the company raised and what's its runway? Who are your investors? Why did you choose them? And most importantly, this one is is one that kind of helps me get there. values. If you weren't building your startup, what would you be doing? which not only gets at their values, but you often find if you have other things in common with that person that you typically wouldn't find during an interview. If you ask those questions, you will go very far down your path to figuring out whether this is the right place for you. And you will differentiate yourself significantly because I can assure you other candidates for those same roles will not be asking those questions. Unknown Speaker 26:35 We're talking to Steve Kahan, the author of being a startup superstar, and we'll be back with him after these words. Are you ready to make a full time living online? Check out the amazing Join Up Dots business coaching. Unknown Speaker 26:47 Hello, my name is Alan. And I've just completed the excellent eight week course with David Unknown Speaker 26:51 before I started working with David Unknown Speaker 26:54 Actually, I had no idea at all where to start. Unknown Speaker 26:57 I had a lot of ideas about While I probably thought was going to be good business, David was able to help me through that though, to find that Unknown Speaker 27:06 passion. Within literally minutes. Unknown Speaker 27:09 We had, we had a business idea. And for the last seven weeks, Unknown Speaker 27:12 we've been building on it and building on it and the position I'm in now, Unknown Speaker 27:16 but if you've got an ever got here Unknown Speaker 27:17 on my own, because of the amount of information that David gives the structure, he's got the full package here, and he explains it in a way that I can understand. His support is phenomenal. I feel like this is the way business is supposed to work. Unknown Speaker 27:32 David helped me understand, okay, what were the next logical steps that I should do? How can I get this up and running? So I would really recommend this as an excellent course helping you if you have an idea if you have no idea, really teasing that out and some of the practicalities and steps to take to really launch your business, whether as a full time job or a side hustle. So it was really excellent. I recommend it for anybody thinking about setting up their own business. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say To save you years Unknown Speaker 28:02 Thank you, David for all your amazing help and support which keeps on going. And we certainly couldn't be where we are today without you. So you're awesome. David Ralph 28:12 So if you would love to become my next success story and have your own life changing online business following my step by step system, being tuned over many years to take away the effort and expense that others struggle with, then come across to Join Up dots.com and book a free call with myself. Let's get you living the easy life as it's there waiting for you to get it that is Join Up dots.com business coaching. Now we're talking to a Steve, the author of be a startup superstar. And interestingly, Steve within the book, the first few chapters, I thought, yeah, okay, I can totally understand where you're going with this. Very interesting at the end, you've got things like embrace the power of kindness and take care of what matters Put your family first work out, eat right sleep more. Why did you feel that it was important to add back into the contents? Steve Kahan 29:08 I think those things are hugely important. And you typically don't hear those types of things from in particular technology startup executives. But let me give you a very specific example why it's so important. And so, for example, when you take a look at sort of, you know, having a healthy work life balance and actually heard a phrase of, I almost don't even like work life balance any more, because it suggests that there's a right answer. I heard a term called work life harmony, which I liked a lot better because it suggests that things have been flowed. And so, you know, time for example, is a it's a finite resource. As we all know, once you lose it, you can't get a back and that means you must really exercise a lot of care in managing Your time and, and highly driven people, particularly those in the startup world often struggle with this. And what I've learned in my career and I didn't start out this way is to be my top priority. And to and if you live very much through your calendar, as I do is the most important item on your calendar. You are you priority number one. And so I'd like to challenge your listeners right now. And I'd like to ask them to open up their calendar and see if their calendar reflects that they are their own top priority. And I'll bet if you're like most people, if you check and see how many appointments you've scheduled with yourself that you have too few. And so, you know, think about some of the time that that you're losing for personal priorities, you know whether that's going to happen game being home for dinner or for breakfast. Or taking time where you're going to build your own skills, learn something new or to think strategically. What I learned was that if you're able to make yourself your own top priority, block out time in your calendar for you, that actually you're able to build far better work life harmony, and it's never perfect. And sometimes things need to change. But if you actually go start blocking off time on your calendar, even if it's for working out at launch, whatever it might be, so that you can proactively manage and orchestrate to the type of work like power money that you want to have for your life, that it just makes things better on all fronts

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